Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Governments Warn Shipping On Increased Pirate Threat Around Horn Of Africa

US And Indian Governments Issue Alarms
Shipping News Feature

INDIAN OCEAN – The US and Indian governments have both issued warnings to their vessels engaged in trade off the east coast of Africa to take precautions against an expected increase in pirate activity between now and May, a period of calm weather between monsoon seasons that is optimal for sailing, and the demonstrated increased range of recent pirate attacks.

“These warnings must be taken seriously, as pirates continue to put our ships and crews at risk, even one year after the Maersk Alabama incident,” said David T. Matsuda, Acting Maritime Administrator. “Mariners must be vigilant and prepare for potential attacks when in the region.”

Whilst the US is concerned about attacks on major vessels, the Indian government’s Shipping Ministry is worried about the hundreds of small dhows crewed by Indians that are such a major part of the shipping trade that goes on between Africa and the Arabian peninsula.

Eight of these have been seized in the last four days, and the smaller vessels are routinely targeted as easier prey than the massive container vessels and tankers. They are then often used as mother-ships for the pirates long-range attacks, the crews being forced to assist their captors at gun point.

Now the Indian Ministry of Shipping has prohibited such vessels from trading south-west of a line between Salalah in southern Oman and Male, the capital of the Maldives, effectively forbidding Somalian and Yemeni waters to these craft.

In addition, owners of UAE-based dhows are also stopping trade between Somalia in reaction to attacks. The owners and merchants hope that by embargoing trade with Somali businesses they will force those interests to put pressure on pirates not to attack dhows.

Although this approach seems a more proactive one than that taken by many Western nations, it remains to be seen how much pressure can be put upon the pirate gangs. It should also be remembered that any successful efforts to curb attacks on the dhow fleets may also raise the likelihood of attacks on other shipping.